How the Rise of Man City's Star Player Reminds Me of My Time Editing Jilly Cooper's Columns

By Davies, Hunter | New Statesman (1996), October 27, 2017 | Go to article overview

How the Rise of Man City's Star Player Reminds Me of My Time Editing Jilly Cooper's Columns


Davies, Hunter, New Statesman (1996)


I like to think I helped Jilly Cooper become a success. I'll start again. I like to think that for a brief, fleeting moment many years ago I created an environment in which she flourished as a writer. So really, I know how Pep Guardiola feels about Kevin de Bruyne.

De Bruyne had problems elsewhere. He'd fallen out with previous managers, failed to blossom, till--bingo! Pep took him under his wing at Man City, arm round his shoulder, told him how marvellous he was, but explained what he must do to get better, and created a formation that allowed him to thrive.

Man City look as if they might steam ahead in the Prem and be out of sight by Christmas, while De Bruyne is being talked about as a possible world player of the year, forgetting that Messi and Ronaldo are still among us.

This is a feature of things suddenly going well in football, and in life. You think: "Wow, they've cracked it, who can stop them now?" Events, dear boy, events: other folk doing better, stars losing their touch--that's what will stop them. Then we could be saying Watford, what an amazing team, there must be a reason they are doing so well this season--let's look back and think of one quickly.

Meanwhile, De Bruyne continues to be greatly improved, benefiting from Papa Pep's patronage.

I thought when De Bruyne first arrived in the Prem that he was Prince Harry's illegitimate, more handsome younger brother. Then I thought: he looks a moan, hardly smiles, does not seem popular with his team-mates. He never seemed to fit in at Chelsea, was sent out on loan and then sold by Mourinho to Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga. Now look at him thriving at Man City.

That happened with Jilly. She became by far the best read, most popular writer on the Sunday Times. Previously it was thought that readers bought the paper for the posh critics, such as Harold Hobson and Dilys Powell.

It was back in the early Seventies that, for a brief moment, I was brought in to edit the women's pages. …

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